Monday, January 25, 2016

"Boston Accent": Thank you, Seth Meyers. This is hilarious.

A few weeks back, I saw the movie Spotlight (which tells the story of the Boston Globe's excellent work uncovering the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal). I went with my sister Kath and her husband, Rick. We all came away saying that we thought the movie was very good, the acting great, etc. And, since we're locals, we soon segued into the accents, which we deemed generally acceptable -possibly because none of the actors were caught out (as Jack Nicholoson was in The Departed) trying too hard to get it right (and failing miserably).

Because this is what Bostonians do when we see a movie set in our town: we critique the accents. 

Of course, we expect Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Mark Wahlberg to get it right: they're from here. And then there are the pleasant surprises: Leo DiCaprio in The Departed; Johnny Depp in Black Mass. 

But as often as not, the accents are dreadful, and we become connoisseurs.

Do people from other regions do the same thing? I think Da Bulls and Da Bears guys from SNL nailed the Chicago accent, as did the guys on the plane in the Discount Doublechek ad. But what do I know? I grew up listening to my Chicago-bred mother tell us that Chicago speech was accentless, considered the purest of pure American way of speaking. All news anchors, we were told, aspired to speak Chicago. 

My mother's defense of the Chicagoan way of talking was at such odds with how I experienced the Chicago way of talking. (Ahh-nest ta Pete, whenever one of my Chicago relatives opened their mouth, what I heard was a variation of Da Bulls and Da Bears.)

I actually hope that regional accents never die out. They're fun and they're entertaining - as long as you avoid the trap of letting yourself sound like a moron. Which is, admittedly, easy enough to do if you're brought up speaking a variation of Massachusetts English. (Having grown up in the Haht a the Cawminwealth - that is, Wuhsta/Worcester - I have to admit that, sometimes, I don't know accent-wise whethah I'm goin' or comin'. Mostly, having grown up in a bi-accent family (my mother's Chicago accent tempering my father's Worcester boy), I never had an especially strong Worcester accent - which is quite similar to the dumb-bunny accent most closely associated with Boston. Not to mention that, over time, both consciously and unconsciously, I chose to not speak Worcester. When I'm tired, or excited, or pissed off, I sometimes do find myself fallin back into it.And I can definitely turn it on on demand, which is kinda wickid awesome. 

Someone else who can really turn it on is comedian Seth Meyers. And why not? He may have been born in Evanston, Illinois, but he spent quite a bit of his childhood in New Hampshire.

Seth demonstrates his linguistic abilities in a quite funny parody trailer for a non-movie: Boston Accent.  Here's the trailer:

And here's the URL, if that doesn't work.

Even if you're not from Boston, it's worth sitting through the Febreeze or FIOS or whatever ad gets in your way.

Meyers doesn't just have fun with the Boston accent - and our local obsession with how it's portrayed - he also takes on the tropes of the Boston movies which have become such cinematic staples since Good Will Hunting hit the screen nearly twenty years back. Unlike most (but not all) of the movies set in Boston, Good Will Hunting has romance rather than violence. But it does feature Red Sox talk and South Boston idiots. So it's all good.

Anyway, I much enjoyed Boston Accent, as well as some of the comments on the YouTube page. Including those from folks who insist, for some reason that I can't fathom, that Bostononians pronounce the name of our fair city as "Bahstan", when anyone who's spent more than a nano-second here knows that it's "Bawstin." Sheesh...


Frederick Wright said...

I think the biggest problem that I have with representations of Boston's accent in movies is the fact they never take social class into account. They just assume that everyone, regardless of educational background, has this same broad, non-rhotic accent. I may have been born and raised here, but by age 17 I had studied five languages and traveled extensively abroad, by 30 I had lived in a dozen countries or more. Same for members of my family and inner circle of friends, all of whom live in Boston or surrounding areas and none of whom have any recognizable accent.

Maureen Rogers said...

Frederick - Excellent point. The accent considered most Boston-like is the blue collar/working class guy accent - not the accent of an educated person from these environs. Most people I know do have some distinctive pronunciations, but nothing like those of Sully-in-the-Red-Sox cap. Meanwhile, did you ever come across anyone other than the Kennedys who spoke like the Kennedys? Where did THAT come from?

Frederick Wright said...

Maureen - aside from Mayor Quimby and Katherine Hepburn, no I have not heard a lot of the Kennedy accent.